About the Band

Arts & Lecture Series at Millsaps College

“This is music to move you–and God knows we need moving, out of the pews and into the streets.”   

Bill McKibben. Middlebury College and 350.org

The Theodicy Jazz Collective was formed at Oberlin Conservatory in 2006 and grew during residency at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music from 2008-2012. The band has performed and created services for a multitude of churches and cathedrals up and down the east coast, including workshops at Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, and Oberlin, and conferences from Los Angeles to London. TJC has performed for the National Council of Churches, Trinity Wall Street, The General Convention and House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and had a tour of England that culminated in the world premier of the group’s own composition, the Canterbury Jazz Mass, with the choirs at Canterbury Cathedral.

“These pieces by The Theodicy Jazz Collective are both exquisite and deeply moving. Listening, I found my senses awakened and my spirit refreshed. What a gift this music is!”

The Rev. C.K. Robertson, Ph.D. Canon to the Episcopal Presiding Bishop

Pianist and founder of the group, Andrew Barnett is an ordained priest and has just begun to work as the Bishop’s Chair for Environmental Studies and Food Justice in the Diocese of Los Angeles. If you are looking for an example of someone who is able to combine his broad interests in one coherent life, Andy is your guy. However, you should note that he has little interest in sleeping.

William Z. Cleary plays alto saxophone and is responsible for the vast majority of the group’s arrangements and compositions. In addition to being a brilliant musician, composer, and teacher, Will is also a guacamole connoisseur in New Haven, CT. Also, his middle initial, “Z,” stands for nothing. It is just “Z.”

Drummer Charles Dye works as a full-time musician and percussion teacher based out of Granby, CT. Charlie has a unique gift for being able to match the style and sound of any ensemble he encounters, raising the caliber of every performance. He has articulated his musical aspirations by saying, “When somebody learns that I am on a gig with them, I hope they’re, like, really good with that.” Dream big, man.

Daniel Loomis on bass lives in Brooklyn, NY where he is a full-time freelance musician. Dan plays in a number of ensembles, from his eclectic jazz group The Wee Trio to his quartet geared for kids, The Dad Beats, described as “a power quartet wrapped in a playdate with a hootenanny garnish! Made up of four real live Brooklyn dads.” He is so Brooklyn.

Since moving to Jackson, MS in 2012, vocalist and liturgy coordinator Ann Phelps has been teaching at Millsaps College in the interdisciplinary Faith & Work Initiative. She has recently begun a new position at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Jackson as the Director of Mission and Community Engagement, and she continues to struggle to convey to her community that yes, there was a time, before her community organizing days, when she was a full-time liturgical jazz singer. It’s a thing.

Sarah Politz on trombone is a founding member of Theodicy, and has been with the group during not one, not two, but three degrees. She is currently pursuing a PhD in ethnomusicology at Harvard University, while regularly traveling back and forth to west Africa for research. Her writing and ideas are as brilliant as her horn playing, which basically means she would intimidate the rest of the group too much to play together if she weren’t so darn likable.

Theodicy fuses sophisticated jazz with the ancient rites of the Church, in the process shedding new light on both traditions.  But, above all, the music is simply stunning!  

Bruce Neswick, Trinity Cathedral, Portland Oregon. 

Members of Theodicy Jazz Collective at Canterbury Cathedral

Photo Credit: David Chevan

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